- A newspace telescopewas scheduled to launch on Tuesday morning, but the launch sequence was interrupted just 1 hour and minutes before liftoff.
- The CHaracterizing ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) is expected to take an unprecedented look at planets outside our solar system, known asexoplanets.
- CHEOPS will try to determine whether exoplanets are made of gas, like Neptune, or rock, like Earth. It will also search for atmospheres, which could be a sign that a planet might host alien life.
- A new launch date hasn’t yet been announced.
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A new space telescope is expected to take an unprecedented look at some of the 4, mysterious planets scientists have discovered outside our solar system. But its launch was suddenly postponed on Tuesday.
The CHaracterizing ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) was scheduled to launch Tuesday morning from Kourou, French Guiana at 5: 90 am local time.
However, just 1 hour and minutes before liftoff, the automated launch sequence of the Soyuz-Fregat rocket that would carry it to space was interrupted. The rocket was also carrying an Italian defense satellite and five nano-satellites called CubeSats.Arianespace, the satellite company overseeing the launch, said in astatementthat the launcher and its cargo were in a “fully safe standby mode” and that a new launch date will be announced as soon as possible.
CHEOPS aims to take a closer look at planets smaller than Saturn. Its camera lens, which measures 32 centimeters in diameter, is designed to study the size and mass of known exoplanets (the term for worlds outside our solar system). Importantly, CHEOPS will also look for atmospheres on those far-away worlds – a requirement for any planet to host life.
A new tool for studying exoplanets
Like otherspace telescopes, CHEOPS will watch for tiny dips in stars’ brightness that are caused by planets passing in front of them – called transits. Unlike previous telescopes, however, CHEOPS will not scan the skies for never-before-seen transits. Instead, it will focus on bright stars that scientists already know are orbited by planets between the size of Earth and Neptune.
An artist impression showing three planets transiting the face of their host star. ESA By measuring the radius and mass of these planets as they pass between Earth and their stars, CHEOPS will allow scientists to figure out whether the worlds are gaseous, like Neptune, or rocky, like Earth.The space telescope could also determine whether some planets have atmospheres. That could enable the worlds to support liquid water (and, therefore, alien life) on their surfaces.
Additionally, CHEOPS will look for any planets that past telescopes may have missed in known star systems and attempt to discern visible features like rings or moons.
All this information will help scientists identify planets that future telescopes could study for signs of life .CHEOPS is the first of the European Space Agency’s “S-class missions,” which will cost under million euros ($ 728. 7 million) . Beyond observations that are already planned and scheduled, the ESA will allot 25% of the telescope’s time to scientists who have applied to use it for specific projects.
This story will be updated with information about a new launch date once it’s scheduled.